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Irish nurses seek law change to allow autonomous work

Several registered nurses and advanced nurse practitioners are calling for the change to enable them to have more flexible, independent working arrangements.

The call comes as nurse practitioners in the Netherlands were recently granted permission to work autonomously.

In Ireland, there are three nurse grades: Registered nurse, clinical nurse specialist, and advanced nurse practitioner (ANP).

If autonomous working arrangements were granted in Ireland, it is not yet known for which grades permission would be granted.

Registered ANP and Irish Practice Nurses Association (IPNA) National Chairperson Ms Ruth Morrow told the Medical Independent the move would enhance patient services.

“ANPs working autonomously and independently will enhance existing services and provide patients with an alternative service, which is accessible and is designed to meet their needs. Autonomous and independent ANPs are experts in their chosen field who will provide individualised, holistic care at advanced practice level to assist patients in attaining and maintaining an optimum lifestyle within their abilities and capabilities,” Ms Morrow said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it is “not currently aware of any correspondence of this nature” in response to a query on whether the Department had discussed the proposal with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI).

Responsibility for the professional conduct of nurses and midwives in Ireland rests with the NMBI, the spokesperson added.

“Through the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Nurses and Registered Midwives, the Board provides a framework of professional guidance to registered nurses and midwives. A key guidance document provided is the Scope of Nursing and Midwifery Practice. This represents the range of roles, functions, responsibilities and professional activities a registered nurse or midwife can perform.

“In Ireland, the scope of practice for nurses and midwives is determined by legislation, EU directives, international developments, social policy, national and local guidelines education and individual levels of competence.”

A spokesperson for the NMBI declined to issue a response on the subject of autonomous working. 

It is understood, however, that while NMBI has not held talks with the Department on the topic of autonomous working, it has had discussions with it about advanced nursing practice.

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